Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Irish Catholicism

I recently came across a series of blog posts written by a priest who lives and works in England but whose family hails from Ireland. Occasioned by a visit to his family across the Irish Sea, the series is a set of personal reflections on the roots of the sexual abuse scandal in Ireland and the wider crisis afflicting the Church there (or being inflicted by the Church on herself). The series starts with 500 (and continues with parts b, c, d, e, f, g, and h).

The series consists mostly of anecdotes rather than systematic inquiry, but it does touch on some of the history of the Church in Ireland and its effect on modern Irish religiosity. Interestingly enough, many of the anecdotes reflect stories I've heard from my own family.

Besides any personal interest it has for me, this series should also be of interest to American readers because of the great influence that the Irish have had on the Church in America. That influence is obviously waning as fewer Irish immigrate and more Hispanics cross the Rio Grande, but it endures nonetheless, especially in cities in the North. From stories about strict, ruler-wielding nuns and priests with no sense for liturgy to grandmothers mumbling the rosary during Mass and eccentric old men attending the wakes of complete strangers, Irish immigrants are often silently assigned the role of the bogeyman in a history of the American Church. Equally characteristic of the Irish, however, was their fierce determination to stay true to the faith in the midst of largely hostile Protestants and even to build up this country's network of parochial schools from nothing. For good and for bad, the Irish legacy cannot be ignored.
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